Sunday, May 30, 2010

A tribute to a graduate and her preschool

I find myself a little emotional as I approach today's entry because I am aware that the next 14 years will pass by in a blink. Someday, as I upload pictures of my high school graduate, I"ll remember this moment.

Last Friday we celebrated Eliza's preschool graduation. The above photo was taken in front of Andrew's hydrangea bush prior to our departure. Andrew's flowers are always worth mentioning.


The Graduate!!

**someone please press the PAUSE button**

I have kept quiet on the details of our preschool out of respect for the other Mom's who value their children's privacy in a way that I do not. :) In fact, our preschool happenings have been recorded on a private blog.

I hope they'll forgive me for the public posting. I love these kids! Each of us know their quirks, their strengths, their vulnerabilities and childhood flaws.

Owen loves the color yellow and transformers.

Kinsey (who happens to be Henry's favorite) loves to imitate kittens and puppies. Talon sticks out his tongue when he's concentrating on an art project. Spencer is enthusiastic for life and has the BEST run on sentences. Eliza loves her letters, friends and to be the boss. Lauren is the class princess.
I ought to tell you how much I appreciate and admire their Mothers. I owe them my heartfelt thanks for their patience with Eliza, their dedication to making their lessons special and for their help when it was my turn to teach. We shared lots of laughs, empathy and pregnancies. One Mama gave birth in October, another three weeks ago... the rest of us are expecting new arrivals this fall.

How We Operated: (a.k.a the details of a boring variety)

The children met every Monday and Thursday. The schedule was easy to change if an illness cropped up in someones home or if an appointment couldn't be avoided. One mother served as the week's host and teacher each week. Two other Moms were assigned to assist her. Our younger children (*ie Henry) came along when it was our turn to help.

One of my lessons: "Christmas Around the World"
Hence my dirndl.
Michelle kindly agreed to play the part of Sweden's St. Lucia

Our lesson material came from the manual, Teach Me Mommy. A letter or number was assigned to accompany the week's theme. Our mornings began with free play. Fifteen minutes after 9:00 a.m., we began "circle time" which included taking roll, reciting the pledge, introduction of the letter/number, the weather and finding out who was in charge of being the day's line leader and helper.

The lesson came next, followed by a craft. Eliza would be quick to remind us that SNACK TIME came next. Snack was followed by a period of free play. The morning ended with stories, singing time and creating a letter page for their alphabet book. Depending on that week's theme, we may have used that Friday to go on a related field trip.
The graduation began with a BBQ. The weather cooperated beautifully. Henry's spell of bad luck continued as he was beamed by an eight year old on a swing. Other than that mishap, I couldn't have enjoyed myself more.

After the program, we watched a 15 minute slide show/DVD courtesy of Miss Stephanie. I can't wait to watch it with Eliza's Grandma's. I think each of our spouses stepped away with a greater understanding of all that we did. Needless to say, Eliza's co-op preschool (or joy school as my Utah friends might know it as) has been a huge part of our life this past school year.

Next fall, she'll be starting preschool at our local elementary school. It's a five day a week program that is state funded. I'm certain the three of us will notice a void this summer as our weekly routine has totally changed. I hope we're as dedicated to play date scheduling as we were to this preschool because I will definitely miss the social aspect that I benefited from.

I've spoken with a few friends throughout the year and shared our ideas. Send me an e-mail if you want to talk through more details.

MORE DETAILS?!? Come on, Ali. What could you have left out?! Plenty, I tell you. Plenty.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Contagious

Something has been going around the house today. I'm not sure how to classify it. Perhaps it's a small case of stupidity or it could be that there's been an outbreak of incredible misfortune. Whatever the cause, my children are the day's apparent victims.

Exhibit A:

video

Here she is post crash.Cruel Mother. That expression screams lack of empathy. It wasn't long until the winds of collision shifted solely to Henry.

video

The laughter you hear is not mine, but I'm not one to point fingers.

Considering Eliza and Henry's current occupation of CHILDHOOD, helmets might soon be a daily accessory. Clearly, from the videos, you noted that Eliza's pants are not. We're working on that one too.

In other news, the month of May has been one giant FIESTAFrom our friend Nate's Cinco De Mayo birthday party, to Eliza's birthday and finally Michelle's... we've been filling our faces with cake, ice cream and loads of other delicious calorie enriched goodness. We had Michelle and family over to dinner on Sunday so she wouldn't have to cook on her birthday. With the kiddie pool still full, we were CLEAR in our communication with the kids that we do NOT swim on the Sabbath Day.
They are the BEST listeners!!

With preschool graduation tomorrow (*sniff, sniff) and Talon's party on Saturday, it's obvious to me that the celebratory atmosphere is likewise contagious (what a sweet tie in, right?).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My husband, the hoser

"This is me loving my kids."

That was Andrew's reply when I asked him why in the world he was lugging the garden hose through the house.
He proceeded to take the hose to our 2nd floor bathroom, fill the tub with warm water and siphon it down to their newly acquired kid sized pool. Henry didn't have the patience to wait for his swimming suit.

First on his agenda: soak the sister.
She didn't mind.
"I think I got her Mom!"

And thus our Saturday began. It wasn't long until we busted out the inflatable tubes, beach ball and water squirting devices. It's a shame that sunscreen didn't make it onto that recently typed list. Their poor sunburns.

Next up, I met up with my friend Michelle for a little maternity shopping (she's expecting to you know!!) at the mall. After those glorious, child-free, hours had been spent, I met back up with the family in time for an adventure in catching tad poles!

I know. Can you stand the excitement of it all?

With our dollar store butterfly nets in hand and a group of friends, Andrew and Eliza waded into the water as Henry and I cheered them on from the sidelines. Our cookie jar that has since been retired from it's intended job is now housing three tadpoles.

Next came a quick grocery store run, dinner and bath time. The rest of the night I plan on sitting and watching the first episode of LOST on ABC.

Losties... can you believe it? TOMORROW IS THE SERIES FINALE. Oh the sadness and anticipation. It's the Ali Flegal super bowl as far as I'm concerned.

Happy weekend, all!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ordinary Frustrations

I begin today with the evolution of a picky eater.

Our dearest Eliza has always liked to eat. The introduction of rice cereal was easily accepted. Being the "wise" first time parent, I introduced vegetables first. Her baby food preferences, may look similar to your own child's (past, current or future).

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potato
  • Squash
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Fruit medley
  • etc.
I wasn't losing sleep over the fact that she rejected the jar of strained peas. How could I hold such an expectation when my own eye balls watered at the smell? The introduction of table food followed with smashing success. I felt like I was officially apart of the Mom Club when "frozen chicken nuggets" became a regular item on my grocery list.

BLAST THOSE CHICKEN NUGGETS!
I now say.

Mentally checking my time line, we're now hovering around her first birthday. I nursed both of my children until they were 15 months of age for one simple reason; I am a sentimental schmuck who has a hard time letting go. Knowing she was still receiving those nutrients and over all accepting much of what we offered, my Mom ego was fully intact.

While living in Germany (Eliza age 12-14 months), we had limited freezer space. Those dangerous and addictive (I'm being dramatic) child staples weren't available. My cooking repertoire expanded, Eliza was eventually weaned (a positive pregnancy test will do that to you) and my expectation remained the same.

We returned to the States. I was over confident that her eating patterns were established. My new found love for cooking diminished. Our little apartment didn't have a dish washer, the counter space was limited and I swear, the sink was NEVER free of dishes. I don't mean to sound ungrateful. Living there, with a Grandmother we cherish, was a huge blessing that enabled me to stay at home full time. It's a poor excuse but I soon chose easy over effort when it came to meal time.

My golden girl who could do no wrong suddenly started to refuse common food items. An example that comes to mind is scrambled eggs.

"What the heck?" I'd think aloud. She ate them almost everyday in Germany.

"You had these last week!" Smiling back at me, I'd imagine her mental reply,

"Mom, I don't remember what happened five minutes ago." And just like that, if she didn't recognize something, she wanted nothing to do with it.

I was at a loss. And still am.

I went to my sister for advice. I consulted her Pediatrician. I GOOGLED!!!

Apparently, it is "normal" for a child to have a picky phase. Eliza was normal. Whatever that means. The guilt I felt didn't abate. Around "age 4" a child's eating habits return. Or so I read.

Her passion for eating never went away. Her list of what she would eat was still full of healthy choices, but the fact that she wouldn't try something new was beyond frustrating. My endeavor to cook healthy meals, although simple, returned. When we moved to the South, I REALLY embraced the power of a kitchen. My husband is profoundly grateful. I no longer shrink form a recipe that calls for a clove of garlic or a sprig of Rosemary.

My goal last year was to make dinner time a look forward to event. If I cooked one meal for Andrew, Henry and myself and gave Eliza a cup of applesauce and a few pieces of turkey, all was well. For the past year, I've written meal plans in two week intervals. For Henry's sake, they include familiar menu items as well as new. If we're having left overs, I may throw open a can of corn to accompany the dish.

"See Henry... THIS IS CORN! Remember, how you LOVE corn? Oh great, YOU STILL DO!!"

Part of his willingness to try may be a little piece of genetic awesomeness. Echoing his Grandmother, Andrew will say:

"Henry just knows what's good" as we watch him pick a sugar snap pea straight from the garden. THE KID EATS EVERYTHING. Whatever is green on his plate is consumed first. Still, I believe that Henry is doing his part because his Mom learned her lesson.

As for Eliza...

She is the first to ask how soon until it's time for snack at preschool. Of her friends, she eats the most (usually). She is also the most fierce in her rejection when something is offered that she doesn't have a memory of eating. Sometimes I lie to her (*GASP*) and tell her that she has had that before and that she liked it (ie: muffins). Occasionally, it pays off and she'll eat it. And you know what? I FEEL NO REMORSE for my deceit.

Now that she's four, Andrew and I have decided that my days of making "two dinner meals" are over. After spending hours on a meal, I'd stand back and think,

"Okay, great. Now what am I going to make for Eliza?" It's been incredibly annoying, but dinner time has been consistent and pleasant.

We tried the "force her" route. That involved her crying at the table for hours. She'd ask to sit in my lap and snuggle. Wanting to please us, she'd take a bite of something new. Ladies and Gents, she's honestly terrified. After eons of time, she chokes it down. A half second later, she throws it back up.

Our new method goes something like this:

This is what Mom made for dinner. Please try it. If you don't try it, you can't eat until breakfast tomorrow.

Some parents will judge us as being too harsh, others will say we've been to soft. I'd agree with both parties! Is it silly that this is what my prayers have revolved around? I am striving to learn what it means to qualify for personal revelation and how to receive it. My primary reason for doing so is because I need divine help in helping this sweet child have the courage to eat better. Not to mention, Henry is well equipped with his own set of challenges (a blog for another day). The bottom line: Motherhood is hard.

Our nights continue to be pleasant despite her consistent dinner time rejection. Dinner has been lonely without her cheerful countenance as she'll opt to sulk in another room. I'll look at Andrew and tell him that I miss her. After a family walk and quick bath, she soon asks for a piece of bread. My will power wanes. Andrew quickly reminds me that if I give in, she'll reject dinner every night knowing that she'll receive a piece of bread.

Last night, as Andrew and Henry finished their dinner, I headed upstairs to print off my grocery list for my bi-monthly shopping trip. I found Eliza wrestling with her personal demons on the stairs. We had a conversation about how Heavenly Father will help her to be brave as she learns to try new food. I encouraged her to go tell Him all about it. She asked a few questions and our little chat ended.

As I waited for my document to print, I leaned over the railing to see if she was still there. I observed that her face was buried in her arms. She was in a kneeling position. I realized that she was in the middle of following through on my suggestion. I wanted to cry as I listened to her pray.

"Thank you Jesus for helping me to be brave to try new food..." My heart soared and ached. I prayed along with her; hoping that my faith would add something to hers. Still, she opted against her plate of food.

We've tried the reward system, fully entailed with a sticker bite chart. Andrew offered the following.

"If you try some dinner, we'll go to the swimming pool."

"I don't want to go swimming." She simply replied. And then last night I said;

"If you try some dinner, I'll buy a big box of chocolate pudding at the store." I saw her resolve waver. She might cave! Oh the holy cup of chocolate pudding; a true favorite. I'm being completely honest when I say that she'd prefer a batch of shots at the Doctor's office over trying new food. It scares her that much.

I understand that other Mom's are dealing with issues and problems on a scale that are so much greater than this. As much as this frustrates me, I realize that there will come a time in my life where I'll laugh to think that one of my deepest frustrations came from the uneaten food on the plastic green plate.

The obvious plea remains: do you have any suggestions, if not wish us luck!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Second Birthday

Having her "friend birthday party" on a weekend clearly meant that she had TWO birthdays... as she reminded me all week. Apparently, I wasn't fast enough in wishing her a "Happy Birthday" this morning as I was thus informed:

"Mom! It's. My. Birthday!"

"...party." I finished for her.

"Say it, Mom!" I was caught off guard. Looking up from decorating her cake I say,

Cute cake idea from my friend, Jamie
"Happy Birthday?"

"No, Mom. Say Happy Birthday to Eliza!" Mustering up the enthusiasm of a cheer leading squad fueled up on Red Bull, I exclaimed:


"HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELIZA!"

and then she was satisfied.

The morning was spent preparing for the arrival of her guests. Henry was put down to rest early and thankfully, his body was ready for that nap. He snoozed while we played with bubbles outside, sang to the birthday girl, delved into the refreshment and watched as she whipped through the wrapping paper at ludicrous speed! Her friends know her well:

  • art supplies for the sidewalk
  • a writing tablet for her to practice her letters and numbers (that was the first to be used)
  • crafts
  • a painting project (she wanted to leave the pool early to get started)
  • dress-ups
  • A My Little Pony
I couldn't have chose better myself. She was elated.

And finally, it was time to head over to the neighborhood pool. Despite our "reservation," the current occupants, most of whom were sunbathing, had no idea we were coming! (!!!!!!!!)

Thanks to my morning trip to the Dollar store, we were armed with water/squirt launchers, noodles and inner tubes. No one was immune from getting wet. The parents were great sports. I think everyone enjoyed themselves.
The miracle of the day was that the "isolated and scattered" rainstorm that was predicted arrived an hour after the last party goer left. Hooray for great weather.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Remaining Details; all 10,000 of them.

This morning Eliza asked, "Am I still four, Mom?"

Their childhood is passing by too fast. It's true. Even though the 4:00 o'clock p.m. hour is mysteriously and painfully slower than the other hours that fill a day, looking back at the past four years, I'm somewhat frightened that it has gone by that fast. This post wasn't meant to be a sentimental, "Oh, how I love her" ballad of thoughts. Rather, it's my intention to quickly (*wish me luck*) recap, via photos, her special day.

Returning to her question, I happily informed her that she was still four; both of us sighed in relief. In response, she reminded me that her "second birthday" (her upcoming birthday party) is only "three sleeps" away.

My "still" four year old

My kind, kind friend Michelle agreed to watch Henry so Eliza and I could enjoy some "girl time." We made our way to a nearby nail salon where we indulged in a little pedicure/manicure action. She wasted no time in selecting the lovely plum purple and electric blue shades of polish.

The manicurist was a bit sour in the beginning. I watched Eliza's face closely as she yelped instruction at her.

"Keep-a-your finger straight!" she repeatedly ordered. Or "Don't curl the toes!" Letting out a sigh of disappointment, she went to repair the smudges. I held my breath, wondering if I'd made a mistake. Eliza held her own, did her best and shot back with her natural charming gab.

Soon after, the lady warmed up to her. She started adding glitter and flowers to her nails. Next she asked if her five year old son could be Eliza's boyfriend. It was a memorable and worthwhile experience. Considering her birthday falls near or on Mother's Day, I see a tradition in the making.

Story time and a timeout with Henry in the library hallway followed. OH HENRY. Today I will hold my tongue. The focus ought to remain on his sister. As much as I enjoy sharing the "glowing reports"- I have to say that the realistic struggle that is my challenging two year old is forth coming.

Lunch at McDonalds (her choice) followed. During quiet time, she and I went outside sans Henry (who was napping - hence the, "quiet time" distinction) so she could peacefully bond with her new sandbox. 4:00 p.m. dragged on (as usual). Finally, Daddy arrived home. Dinner and the long awaited, opening of presents happened simultaneously (please note Henry's face in the collage below). Per our usual routine, we made our way outside for more time with the sandbox. I've been meaning to write about the wonderful next door neighbors we have... Margie is the type of lady who knocks at my back door at 5:00 p.m with a piping hot pot of beef stir fry. You see, she's simply made too much and doesn't want all of the left overs.

Perfect timing. At the time, I was in the throws of first trimester helplessness (aka too lazy to keep on top of meal planning). I gratefully accepted. Wanting to return the favor, I return her dish with a generous helping of cookie/fruit salad. And of course, she sent back my husband with a new dinner dish to try.

Last night, it happened again. Not knowing it was Eliza's birthday, she showed up with a container of carrot cake (true story). Having forfeited my plan to make her a cake, because I totally suck as a parent, we stuck it with candles and sang to the birthday girl (I'm making a cake for her party, I swear!). Oh yes, while we're on the cake boycotting topic, take a look at the "cake" I provided for her preschool birthday celebration. I know, right?! Where's my gold star parenting award? :) She wanted donuts and I was thrilled to not be making cookies at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday evening. Speaking of awards, I do have to note the sweet expressions of love my children bestowed upon me on Mother's Day.

From Eliza, I was given an apron adorned with her colorful hand prints... as well as two handmade magnets with her photo. Stop by for a visit in 20+ years. They will still be on the fridge.

Henry, gave me a box of gobstoppers. Bless his heart, I love those.

Andrew made me a card! It had a whole bunch of nice words in it and you all know how much I LOVE WORDS. In addition, he replaced our 'piece of junk' (not an exaggeration) house phones and gave me a lovely pot of flowers for the front (or back?) porch. He also made dinner.

So much for the "quick recap" promise. We're no longer strangers, right dear reader? I mean, this is kind of what you expect?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Eliza!

To our amazing four year old,

I am looking forward to spending this special day with you. I woke up early because I am that excited!! Wake up soon so the celebration can begin!

Love your very own,

Birthday Fairy Wish Lady (Mom)


(sometimes we share an identical expression)

I'm not sure who is more excited, me or her?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Because I can't resist a delicious slice of CHEESE


To my family who have made this day so special, thank you! Spending my days in your exclusive company is the highest of privileges.

To the one who is coming, I can't wait for you to join the party. I love you.
(taken at 12 weeks, currently I'm 16)

To my Mother who I love and cherish, thank you for your constant displays of charity.

I ache when we're apart.

And last but not least, to the Mother who raised my son,
Thank you for nurturing him so tenderly. Because of your example, he is a wonderful husband and Father.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Y'all are cordially invited

90 + degree weather is upon us in the South. With that being said, the timing of our pool's opening couldn't be better. Our week began with a series of sporadic rain storms, but with the sun shining Wednesday evening, the kids (Andrew included) left for the pool before dinner was out of the oven. I soon followed with dinner in tow.

Each of us were sporting a new swimming suit. I found a winner of a maternity suit at Target, Andrew retired his 6 + year old swimming suit with a new one I gave him on his birthday and Eliza... well, she received two new ones. The first one I bought is similar to Henry's - you know, the t-shirt style. I figure with Lake Powell on the horizon, the more protection the better. And then, for ten dollars, I spotted that little ruffle number. My will power was overcome.

I HAD TO HAVE IT. I mean, she had to have it.

I sense a change in our evening routine. A future pattern is emerging. Sure, there will be days when I take the kids to the pool myself but it's definitely more exciting (and relaxing) when Daddy accompanies us.Andrew opposes life jackets. He is overly confident in our our ability to remedy a scary situation. As for me, I'm in the business of PREVENTION. Therefore, they will be in life jackets when they're alone with me.
Henry was timid. Perhaps the recent memory of delving into a wave unaided is still fresh in his little mind. He was most content next to me, kicking his legs.
However, he obliged his father's request for a quick jaunt around the pool.
Eliza has loads more confidence this year. She couldn't wait to get wet.

While I continuously said, "Eliza come closer, you're getting too deep!" Andrew would holler back, "Keep going Eliza, you can do it." He wanted her on her toes so she'd kick those legs and swim. I'm sorry love, but if she's not in arms reach of a parent, she needs to stay in the shallow end. Her swimming lesson commenced with blowing bubbles and kicking at the wall.

Andrew was her shadow in the water; as Henry was mine.The world's best life preserver. So, what are you waiting for friends? We'd love to have you over.